Spain and Portugal, the first European powers in 16th-century America, conquered territory from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego. From the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic, North America eventually became the object of a prolonged struggle between France and England. As wars broke out in Europe, spread to America and were settled in a succession of treaties, New France expanded to cover three quarters of the continent. Then, with the loss of Acadia, Newfoundland and Hudson Bay, under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, its boundaries shrank. It was finally dismantled for good in 1763, with the Treaty of Paris. The desire of France’s monarchs to maintain a presence in North America was manifested a number of times in military operations that demanded considerable resources, given the ongoing need to protect the country’s European possessions. By the mid-18th century, however, the economic system that was established in the West Indies was more in tune with France’s goals. Of the 30,000 French people who made the voyage to New France between 1604 and 1760, roughly half chose to remain. Some, refusing to submit to English rule, returned to France or tried their luck elsewhere. The most tragic fate fell to the Acadians, who suffered mass deportation in 1755. By 1763, there were about 80,000 people living in New France, most of them concentrated in the province of Quebec and a few small enclaves in the Great Lakes region and in Louisiana.
The Surrender of Québec
By 1627, the settlement founded at Québec in 1608 still had fewer than 100 inhabitants. That year, Armand-Jean Du Plessis, Cardinal Richelieu, founded the Compagnie des Cent-Associés, whose mission was to introduce 300 new settlers to New France every year. But war broke out between France and England, and the first contingent of settlers was intercepted by the English fleet on the St. Lawrence River and was prevented from landing. Despite the fact that peace was declared in Europe in April 1629, the Commander David Kirke demanded the surrender of Québec the following July. After lengthy negotiations, in which Samuel de Champlain took an active part as commander of New France, Québec was finally restored to France in 1632, under the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
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The Treaty of Utrecht
Conflict over succession to the Spanish throne resulted in a coalition of several European countries, including England, which waged war against France from 1701 to 1714. In North America, British troops seized Port Royal, in Acadia, in 1710. By signing the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the French King, Louis XIV chose to preserve the integrity of his European kingdom, including the cities and provinces he had recently conquered. Of his possessions in New France, the King ceded to England the Hudson Bay basin, Acadia (inhabited by 2,000 settlers), Plaisance (Placentia) and his other Newfoundland possessions, with the exception of certain fishing rights; the territory of the Iroquois Confederacy became an English protectorate. France retained Louisiana and the St. Lawrence Valley up to an undetermined western boundary. France decided almost immediately to rebuild French Acadia on Cape Breton Island (renamed Île Royale). In 1715, it began the construction of a fortified town at Louisbourg, bringing in settlers from Plaisance (Placentia) and encouraging Acadians living under British rule to move there or to Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island).
Medal (front) commemorating the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713
Medal (back) commemorating the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713
Letter from Monsieur Nicholson, October 3, 1710
Articles of capitulation granted for the surrender of the fort of Port Royal
Proclamation from Philippe Pastour de Costebelle
Treaty of Utrecht, April 11, 1713
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The Acadians in Nova Scotia
From their first settlement in 1604, the French in Acadia saw their governance transferred between France and England several times. From 1670, following the Treaty of Breda in 1667, a relatively stable period began, which enabled them to consolidate their position. In 1713, under the Treaty of Utrecht, Acadia officially became Nova Scotia, the name given by the English to the region with the 1606 Charter of King James I, which granted to the Virginia Company a territory extending north to the 45th parallel. Most Acadians, now British subjects, chose to remain on their land, but they refused to swear allegiance to the King of England. They wished to remain neutral during all wars, and demanded the inclusion of a clause absolving them from the obligation to take up arms against France, England or the Mi'kmaq. In a fragile peace that lasted until 1748, Acadians experienced a new period of growth and prosperity in Annapolis Royal (the new name for Port Royal) and in the villages of Beaubassin, des Mines and Grand-Pré.
Edict from Queen Anne of England
Proclamation from Richard Phillips, Governor of Nova Scotia,
A General Plan of Annapolis Royal
View of the town and fort of Annapolis Royal, ca. 1753-1755
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The Boundaries of Acadia
Acadia was claimed by the French, who had explored and occupied it periodically since 1524, following the expedition of Giovanni da Verrazzano. However, the English also considered this land to be theirs, in accordance with the charter drawn up in 1606 by James I, which granted to the Virginia Company a territory that extended to the 45th parallel and thus included La Baie Française (Bay of Fundy) and Port Royal. The lack of clear boundaries was a source of endless conflict between France and England, as well as numerous clashes between French settlers and their New England neighbours. Neither the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), nor the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) were able to define the borders of Acadia more precisely. Although France and England studied the problem in the 1750s; only war would put an end to these discussions.
Map of Acadia, Île Royale and Neighbouring Countries
Letter from Father Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix
The Deportation of the Acadians
As a major confrontation brewed between France and England over control of North America, Acadia became of vital strategic importance. England sought initially to reinforce its military presence in the region. It founded the town of Halifax in 1749 and introduced settlers throughout the territory. The Governor of Nova Scotia, Edward Cornwallis, demanded that Acadians swear unconditional allegiance to the British Crown, in order to eliminate any possibility of neutrality. In their petitions to the Council of Nova Scotia, the Acadians refused to take such an oath, which could oblige them to take up arms against France, but they did confirm their loyalty to the King of England. The members of the Council, under President Charles Lawrence, rejected any possibility of tolerance towards the Acadians, and on July 28, 1755, decided to expropriate and expel them. Approximately 7,000 Acadians were thus assembled and sent by ship to the English colonies on the Atlantic coast; by 1762, another 2,000 to 3,000 had suffered the same fate. Sickness, epidemics, difficult voyages and harsh exile conditions, which were the result of this deportation, led to many deaths.
The Governor's House and St. Mather's Meeting House, Halifax (Nova Scotia), 1764
Minutes of the Council of Nova Scotia (in English and French), July 28, 1755
Circular letter from the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence
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The Displacement of Canadians to Louisiana
During the Seven Years' War, with the growing likelihood that Canada would fall into the hands of the English, an anonymous report suggested that the whole of Canada's population (estimated at 60,000 people) be relocated to Louisiana. It was a solution that offered a number of advantages: the increase in population would turn Louisiana into a colony capable of holding its own against the English, it would also allow the cultivation of produce not available in the home country, and it would create new trade relations. The author of the document was well aware that such a displacement of the population would be a difficult venture, declaring that "this transmigration must not be achieved through violence, it can only succeed by means of persuasion."
Reactions to the English Conquest
The Seven Years' War marked the final confrontation between France and England in North America. The civilian population was severely affected by the destruction of property, currency devaluation and food shortages. However, after the end of the war and Montréal's capitulation in 1760, the change in governance had little immediate impact on the everyday lives of most Canadians. Worried about their future, French government officials returned to France where they were obliged to defend their administrative actions. The colonial elite was able to choose to stay or leave, and this was the source of much soul searching and division among families. For those who returned to the home country, reintegration into French society was not easy. The nobles who remained, for the most part military officers, suffered from the dismantling of the colonial army and the loss of the many privileges associated with their position. French merchants now had to contend with rivals who arrived from England or other colonies. The clergy and members of the various religious orders were henceforth obliged to find their means of support in the New World and to define their relationship with the Protestant State. The loss of New France was of little consequence to the French population, since the European kingdom remained intact, although certain merchants and members of the government no doubt regretted the disappearance of this trade network.
Letter from François Marie Arouet (Voltaire), September 6, 1762
Request from the merchants and burghers of Québec
Letter from the military officer [Paul-Louis Dazemard de] Lusignan
Letter from Bertrand Duvernet to the Secretary of State for War
Report from the chamber of commerce of La Rochelle to the Secretary of State for War
Letter from Louise de Ramezay to Monsieur de Bellot
Letter from Marie-Josèphe Legardeur de Repentigny
Letter from [Louis] Charly Saint-Ange to [Antoine de Bellot]
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The Military Regime
The war in North America ended with the capitulation of Montréal on September 8, 1760, whose terms granted Canadians property rights and the freedom to practice their religion, but obliged them to lay down their arms. While awaiting the end of the war in Europe and an international treaty that would decide the fate of New France, the English established a temporary military regime under General Jeffery Amherst, which lasted from 1760 to 1763. During these years, the civil code of the Coutume de Paris remained in force; the seigneurial system was preserved; captains of the militia continued to act as liaison between the authorities and the population; the Catholic Church maintained its role; the colony's internal administration still operated in French; and the economy, seriously wanting after several years of war, began to recover slowly. Canada's three administrative regions were retained, but each was given more autonomy: Ralph Burton was appointed Governor of Trois-Rivières; Thomas Gage, of Montréal; and James Murray, Governor of Québec.
Portrait of James Murray, ca. 1770
Governor General James Murray's map in 44 sections
Report on the Government of Quebec and Dependencies thereof, by James Murray, 1762
An East View of Montreal, November 11, 1762
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The Treaty of Paris
The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763 by England, Spain, France and Portugal, put an end to the Seven Years' War. France, which lost virtually all its North American possessions, retained only the fishing rights off a section of the Newfoundland coast, and ownership of the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon "to serve as shelter for French fisherman." The Royal Proclamation issued by London on October 7, 1763, defined the boundaries of the colony. Acadia was included with Nova Scotia, Labrador and the Île d'Anticosti with Newfoundland, while the Great Lakes region came directly under the British Crown. The former French colony, which had once covered almost all of the North American continent, was now renamed the province of Quebec, and limited to the St. Lawrence Valley. The Treaty of Paris granted the inhabitants of Canada the freedom to practice the Catholic religion, and allowed them 18 months in which to return to France if they wished. In fact, most Canadians chose to remain in the colony.
An accurate map of North America
Treaty of Paris, February 10, 1763
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The Liquidation of Paper Money
A large portion of the payments in New France were made with papier-monnaie [paper money]: letters of exchange, treasury bills, certificates and card money. Each year, the Secretary of State for the Marine sent the currency required to redeem the notes. But the years of war proved costly, and the King of France was slow in making his payments. After the capitulation of Montréal, the inhabitants of Canada were left in uncertainty for several years, before finally, in 1764, the State Council of the King ordered that the paper money be partially redeemed. But actual repayment of the papiers du Canada [Canadian papers] dragged on, and eventually in 1771, the King decided to annul his debts. This resulted in considerable financial loss for Canadians and, to a lesser extent, for the new English occupants.
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The Aboriginal Peoples and the English Government
The Seven Years' War between France and England had repercussions for the Aboriginal nations. A number of tribes living in the region of the St. Lawrence Valley negotiated a peace or a certain neutrality with the English. A certificate signed in 1760 by General James Murray granted the Huron of Lorette the right to "freely practice their religion [and preserve] their customs and the freedom to trade with the English garrisons." A few days later, other Aboriginal peoples met William Johnson, superintendent of Indian affairs in Caughnawaga, to discuss peace. The English took over the posts at Detroit and elsewhere in the Great Lakes region, and changed the rules in their dealings with the various tribes, most of whom were allies of the French. The new rulers abolished the custom of "presents," refused to allow Aboriginal people credit, demanded that trading be conducted exclusively at the posts, and put a stop to rum trafficking. This led to the formation of an alliance between several nations, led by Pontiac, whose aim was to "destroy all the English that they shall find in the lands they had allowed their brothers and good friends the French to occupy." Despite several victories for the Aboriginal nations in 1763, the uprising was eventually quelled by the English.
Private agreement bearing the certification of General Murray
Copy of a letter sent by General Jeffery Amherst, October 3, 1763
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The Acadian Refugees in France
In 1755, the Acadians were deported and dispersed, for the most part, to other English colonies in North America. They were poorly received, and few remained permanently. A small group was sent to England, and about 3,000 found refuge in France, where the government offered them land on Belle-Île-en-Mer (in Brittany) and in Poitou. They had difficulty adapting to the French administrative system and did not integrate well into the rural area, where they were seen by local farmers as usurpers. Most left eventually, and a good number set off for Louisiana in 1785. Deeply rooted to the land, many Acadians returned to Nova Scotia, Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) and the regions that would become New Brunswick in 1784.
Report on the true Acadian families and the plan to settle them in Poitou, ca. 1773
Report on the Acadians
Report on the assistance given to the families from Île Royale, Acadia and Canada who took refuge in France
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During the conflicts that led to the English conquest of New France, the lives of its inhabitants were often radically changed or altered. The often tortuous routes travelled by men, women and children from one side of the Atlantic to the other mirror these upheavals. The Louisbourg merchant Gabriel Revol, for example, married in Bordeaux in 1750, died in October 1758 aboard the Charles, an English ship making the voyage to France with a number of prisoners of war onboard. The inventory of his possessions reflects his hasty departure from the ruined town. Luc de La Corne Saint-Luc, born in the colony in 1711, was an army officer and fur trader. In 1761, he decided to set sail for France aboard the Auguste, but the vessel was shipwrecked off Cape Breton Island. La Corne was one of only seven passengers among the 121 who survived and succeeded in making their way back to Québec after a 100-day walk. La Corne then decided to remain in Canada and published the story of his adventure. Elisabeth Guillaume, born in Liverpool, England, in about 1742, was sent to New England at the age of nine, where she was taken prisoner by the "French and the savages of Canada." The Governor of the colony purchased her freedom and placed her in a convent in Québec. Once there, she converted to Catholicism. In 1759, as the English fleet approached, she left Québec for La Rochelle, where she married another exile from Île Royale.
Journal of the voyage of Monsieur Saint-Luc de La Corne
Inventory after death of Gabriel Revol
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